One of the most devisive theological subjects of all time is the atonement. There is a lot that has been written on this subject, and it is really kicking a dead horse to continually revisit the past 2,000 years of theology and polemics, but I think that when we understand the atonement better, we understand our nature as followers of Jesus. It is therefore important that we at least spend a healthy amount of time discussing the topic. Even if we disagree with others about the doctrine, knowing where we are coming from will certainly help our dialogue.

As you can tell from the title, eventually I am going to bring this discussion back to the idea of Christus Victor – a term first coined in 1931 by Gustaf Aulen although the idea goes back much, much farther. But for now, we should take a quick survey of the history of the doctrine of the atonement.

 

Survey of Various Views

 

The Ransom Theory

For the first thousand years of organized Christian doctrine (dating roughly from the mid-2nd century CE), the prevalent view of the atonement was what is know today as the Ransom Theory. It is difficult to find the origin of this theory, but it dates from at least Irenaeus (c 125 – 202 CE). The view was particularly prominent in the Greek Church around the time of Origen and ultimately became the doctrine of atonement in the Post-Nicene Church.

As Irenaeus believed it, Jesus had ransomed the Church by his blood. This much is supported by Scripture. Jesus [Matt 20:28, Mark 10:45], Paul [1 Tim 2:6] and John [Rev 5:9] all agree on this point.

But the issue that soon came to the forefront was to whom was the Ransom paid. It appears that Irenaeus believed the ransom was paid to God, but later proponents like Origen would redefine the payment as to Satan rather than to God. This may have been a compromise of sorts with the Latin church leaders who held a different view.

 

Primitive Christus Victor

First, a side note about the vocabulary I have chosen here.

The word primitive has some negative connotations tied to being somehow incomplete or unevolved. This meaning as come about since the advent of the theory of evolution, and has unfortunately robbed the word of its true meaning. The word means “first of its kind” and does not imply any need to progress to a better form.

Thus, I have chosen to dub the belief of the Latin Fathers’ view as primitive Christus Victor. Primitive means “first of its kind” and not “unevolved.” When we look at the works of these writers, we are looking at essentially the same belief in Christus Victor but it is the first incarnation of it.

In the Latin Church, as expressed by writers like Augustine and Ambrose, the term ransom is a metaphor. To them, what Jesus did was not actually pay a ransom but rather he freed his followers from the bondage of the world, the flesh and Satan. This is a reflection of the Biblical literature, especially the work of John and Peter although Paul also writes about the freedom gained in Christ.

There is some disagreement (and really no way to resolve it) about whether primitive Christus Victor and the Ransom Theory were actually contemporary and if so, which came first. Those are really open questions. The fact is that both camps extracted their beliefs from the writings of the apostles and believed strongly that their particular interpretation was the correct one.

 

Anselm’s Satisfaction Doctrine

 

In the late 11th century, Anselm of Canterbury reformulated the Ransom Theory and produced a theory that became the standard doctrine of both Catholics and Protestants (the Eastern Catholic Churches adhered to the Ransom Theory and most of the Orthodox Churches held to Christus Victor).

Anselm, who lived in feudal Britain and was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, brought a feudal perspective to the idea of redemption. To the upper class of feudal Europe, everything was a business transaction. In some way or another, a price must be satisfied in order to redeem anything – an animal, person or even a kingdom. There was a requirement to be met by someone.

Thus, Anselm held that Jesus did not simply pay a ransom for the souls of the Church. He must have satisfied their price – in this case, their punishment for their sins.

Because the Catholic doctrinal system became locked in a struggle with the Protestants in the 16th century, Anselm’s interpretation became their standard and because most of the Protestants were recovering Catholic priests, they brought the Satisfaction Doctrine into their various national churches. Often, the Protestants would revisit this doctrinal position and fuse bits and pieces of the Ransom Theory with the Satisfaction Doctrine.

 

The Rediscovery of Christus Victor

During the Reformation and the Enlightenment periods of European history, some significant political and economic shifts took place that rendered the Satisfaction Doctrine obsolete. Feudalism faded as nationalism and imperialism became dominant once again. Continental Europe consolidated into several imperialist powers – all of whom laid claim to the right of Charlemagne and thereby the Roman Empire.

This started long before the Reformation but it was really during these periods following the Age of Exploration (or perhaps more appropriately, the Age of Exploitation), the possibility of a massive, continent spanning empire became evident and almost immediately nations began justifying acts of violence to take over other nations.

And in counterpoint to these emerging imperial ambitions, the idea of individual liberty and freedom developed and started taking root. As individuals of various strata of society and eventually also of various races, creeds and genders, were seen as equals to even the greatest of men, there was no longer a need for a theology built around Jesus as a sort of feudal lord buying the Church as property from God (Satisfaction) or Satan (Ransom). In fact, such an image became unappealing, especially to those oppressed by the imperial nation-states.

Thus, theories based on medieval feudalism became increasingly unsatisfactory. Theologians attempted to reform the existing theories but just produced theological bedlam.

In 1931, Gustaf Aulen proposed the revival of Christus Victor in the Western Church. The idea was simple. The ransom was paid for the liberation from sin. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection were not meant to buy off God or Satan but to show his victory over death, hell and sin. In essence, Aulen proposed that Christus Victor could embody both Ransom and Satisfaction. Jesus was Savior because he became human and defeated humanities enemies.

In reality, Christus Victor had never been abandoned. It had simply been in exile in the Eastern Church.

 

What Does Christus Victor mean for you and me?

For most of us, our beliefs in Jesus as our atonement is something we experience externally. We receive the atonement as a component of individual salvation. Because of this, we do not allow the atonement to define how we behave. We allow it to define what we perceive Jesus doing; we perceive it as part of Jesus; but it is not seen as part of us or our thinking.

But in Christus Victor, we have a Christ who has fundamentally altered the nature of our existence as individuals and as a group of people. It becomes the root of our actions rather than a theological idea that is added onto our belief structure.

Because we are freed from sin in Christ’s victory, any sin that exists in our hearts and minds has already been overcome. We overcome because he overcame. We are victorious when he is victorious, which is always.

Advertisements

Living in Community

October 27, 2008

Our modern American culture is one that places an extraordinary value on the enjoyment of privacy. We are literally obsessed with individual accomplishment as gauged by possession. Cars, physical fitness, 401(k) balances, homes, even phones and PDA’S are all indications of one’s accomplishments and thus their success as an individual.

selfish clipMaybe it is a product of our free market or our pioneer heritage. Who can say what factors have contributed to it? But we pour a tremendous amount of our personal resources into building personal kingdoms within our vast empire network that we call our culture.

We place almost no value on community – not really community anyway. And this is because you cannot truly have interdependent community and individualism at the same time. They are mutually exclusive.

While we give lip-service to caring for the poor, loving the needy, and often even do quite a bit to help these people, they are not really part of our world.

Our world revolves around and essentially includes only ME. This world might include those closely connected to those closest to ME, but often reluctantly. Spouses and children are good as long as they give ME what I want, but everyone walks a thin line because if you cross ME, I’ll get rid of you or ignore you.

This obsession with ME, this self-centered existence, is at the core of the reason I believe modern American Christianity is an utter (if not complete) failure.

Allow me a digression into Church History for a moment.

The Apostolic Church (30 – 325)

In the first churches, Christian worship was defined by action and community. It is not hard to see this as you read the book of Acts. Everywhere you see people abandoning individual religion for a community experience in the way of Jesus. We sold what we had; we traveled in community; we gave to those who needed without question. Those who claimed to be Christians and yet thought primarily of themselves were condemned or punished by God himself. [Acts 5:1-11, 8:9-25]

give away clip

In their letters, the apostles Simon Peter, James and Paul called the churches to a continual commitment to cast aside personal obsessions in favor of the community.

  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. [Romans 12:13-18, ESV]
  • Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. [1 Peter 2:10-11, ESV]
  • What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. [James 2:14-17, ESV]

This early church, which really thrived in the first three centuries after Christ, defined worship and Christianity by action. While the core of our beliefs – namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, was absolutely essential, it was not what defined us. To believe something but not to live it out was the ultimate heresy.

There were no church buildings in most of these churches. The church would come together in an assembly, which usually gathered at night. These gatherings were called ekklesia in Greek or synaxis in Latin.

Generally, their liturgy was very simple – observance of the Lord’s Table, recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, singing of Psalms and a brief homily on the Gospels. It did not need to be complex because this was not church. This was simply the gathering of the church.

The church was this committed group of believers loving the people around them. The church was characterized by their work among people. Bishops and lay leaders routinely ventured into places of disease, poverty and war to serve the people. Christians took in orphans and widows. They were found everywhere – from the emperor’s court to the leper colonies. And everywhere they went, they took the message of Jesus with them.

There was no interest in being part of the world. In fact, the Christians had rejected the Empire long before the Empire rejected them. They were content to live under its rule; but they were not part of it. The church was a kingdom of servants, a free theocracy whose only rule was to love others.

defined clip

This early church was a church defined by action.

 

The Post-Nicaean Church (325-1450)

After Constantine legalized Christianity, replacing the worship of the Conquering Sun with the worship of the Trinity, the church found itself suddenly extremely wealthy and powerful. Bishops were no longer the humble servants of the word who met with people in the night. They were granted grand temples as church buildings, and their focus shifted from service to symbol.

The ekklesia moved indoor, to these places called kuriakos or “the Lord’s [building].” This shift turned the focus from the people being the Lord’s to the place or, later, the hierarchy being the Lord’s.

The worship of the church developed an intensive liturgy, meant to simulate the glory of the Lord’s presence. Ecstasy replaced work. People flocked to the churches, rather than the church flocking to the people who needed them. We abandoned our place of service for our place of worship.

As bishops became more powerful, the potential for wide scale corruption became all more overwhelming. Once the papacy (in particular, but not exclusively) became a political power, the See of Peter was filled with ambitious politicians and corrupt sycophants rather than by men who loved Jesus.

Especially after the 8th century CE, the Church increasingly became the Empire. The rule of popes and patriarchs were completely intertwined with the rule of secular leaders. In fact, there would have been no distinction made. The idea of separation of church and state was something totally alien to them.

defined clip

The medieval church was defined by authority and symbol.

 

The Reformation Church (1450-Present)

Inevitably, parts of the Church rejected this corrupt way of life. They could not claim to follow Christ and the ones who ruled so carnally in his place. But in their rejection of the corrupt, they also rejected their heritage and the richness of the previous 1500 years of Christian worship.

In the place of the authority of the medieval church, the reformers substituted teaching. They exalted the preacher and downplayed the liturgy. Church revolved around preaching and correct doctrine. More than any time in its past, the church became obsessed with being right.

Denominations sprang up as we divided against ourselves on points of belief – both large and small. The Church fragmented into ten thousand shards of glory, each with their pioneering teacher.

defined clip

The modern church is defined by teaching.

 

The Problem with all of This

And this is where we are right now. We are the modern church, defined more by what we say than by what we do. We talk and talk and talk.

Is this really what church is? The answer would have to be a resounding NO!

I am a preacher by trade, and it is deeply troubling to contemplate a world without the full-paid clergy or the church buildings that defined us in the medieval period. After all, we are 1800 years removed from the Council of Nicaea and Constantine. That is a long time!

But it seems like our priority is the preaching/teaching/worship thing that our culture reveres. Even in our own church, we invest 90% of our annual budget into a building and a pastor. I enjoy working with our church; I love being a pastor. But I can’t help but wonder if we might not be a better church if we took this same amount of money and invested it into helping people.

Think about it. Our annual budget at our little, little church is over $98,000. That means that we will spend around $90,000 on keeping our rent and salary paid. We will spend less than $8,000 on ministering to others (of which, $7,000 will be spent on things the pastor leads in the building!).

Our church is great with volunteering to do stuff for people, and they really throw themselves into serving the community when given the opportunity; but what if we shifted our focus and simplified our mission?

What if we decided to abandon the whole central building thing and instead worshiped in homes on the weekends?

What if we took all that money we give toward the building (and even ::GASP!:: the pastor) and invested it in repairing homes in the downtown? What if we stopped dumping money into rent and bought an apartment building and worshiped there by meeting for prayer and meditation before going out into the city to make a dramatic difference?

Image

What if we just took the losses, consolidated our resources and devoted 90% of our time to others and used the other 10% for ourselves rather than the other way around?

What if we let go of the security of our UNsupernatural way of doing church and genuinely took a step of radical proportions away from our selfishness and cultural momentum and into the unknown of the ancient church?

When you were in middle school history class, your teacher probably gave you a basic timeline of history. It begins with the rather nebulous pre-history, the time period before mankind knew how to write. (Of course, if you were in a Christian school you were told that there is no such thing as pre-history since man was apparently created with the ability to write and all history begins at Genesis 1.)

The first era of history was called the Ancient period, and it extended from the first writing through the fall of Rome in the 5th century AD. The last era is labeled the Modern era, and it stretches from around 1500 AD until the present day. In between those two was a vaguely defined, poorly understood period known as the Medieval Ages or the Dark Ages or Middle Ages.

Most of us learned that history is divided into these three major ages: the ancient, the medieval and the modern. It is the framework from which much of our thinking about the past is crafted. We think of the prehistoric man as a cave man eking his existence out by hunting wooly mammoths and dragging women around by their hair; and we think of the ancient man as the enlightened, toga-draped Greeks wandering through pillared halls. The medieval man is ignorant and benighted, ruled over by the cruel kings and debauched bishops. Of course, the modern man is superior to all of them, rising above the rest of history as the pinnacle of the race.

The problem is that all of this is an illusion.

The Origin of the “Modern Man”

ubermensch clipThe idea of a “Modern Era” was invented by the Enlightenment philosophers, based on terrible historical research, and popularized by Georg Hegel. To Hegel and other Enlightenment philosophers, the Modern Man was superior to all forms of man before him.

This new man, whom Friedrich Nietzsche would dub the Übermensch, was something special. His discoveries and knowledge were so extensive that man could not help but sit back and be amazed by his own profundity, acumen, ingenuity and morality. In short, man had finally arrive. It was not the era of Modern Times, but rather Modern Man.

The Modern Age was marked by the final stage of human development. Although the theory of biological evolution was formulated during this supposed Modern Age, if it had existed at the beginning, the philosophers would have called man the pinnacle of evolution.

Looking back, we might wonder where men could have developed such a myopic view of history, but remember that at the time of the Enlightenment archaeology, paleontology, and virtually every other science dealing with history was virtually unknown or based on strange premises. This was an era where Atlantis was still considered a distinct possibility, people were astounded to find out that blood circulated via vessels, and the cellular structure of life was yet to be widely published.

The Enlightenment was full of ideas – most of which are now known to be ridiculous.

The End of Modern Man

This ideal of Modern Man evaporated in the 20th century, when these “modern men” across the world spent 1913-1918 and 1939-1945 doing their best to destroy each other by any means imaginable. And any traces of this hope of idealism and utopia (a phrase coined by one of the first great modernists, Thomas More) were wiped away by the blood-soaked decades that followed.

In World War II alone, over 70 million people were killed. Most of them were civilian non-combatants.

The 20th century saw more human blood shed in war than probably any century before it. The bloodshed of the 20th century was 11 times that of the second bloodiest, the 17th. Never before had man attacked other men with such ferocity or effectiveness.

MODERN clip

What was supposed to be the gloriest pinnacle of man’s evolution demonstrated only the gory violence of his sinful heart.

And the source of all this carnage? Two social experiments that believed wholeheartedly in the superiority of modern man: national idealism (German nationalism/Nazism and Japanese militarism/elitism) and communism.

This era of unprecedented violence wrought by Modern Man led Karl Barth to lament:

Men have never been good, they are not good and they never will be good.

The experiment, the fanciful notion of modernity died on the battlefields of The Marne, The Somme, Gallipoli, Luzon, Guadacanal and Stalingrad. It dissipated like the smoke from the stacks of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and Belzec.

Postmodernity

The shadow of these great wars was long indeed. But what could come after this – this tragedy of the Modern Man? Mankind could not go backward into the Dark Ages, but it was clear that this Modern Age was in its death throes.

The first Great War gave birth to the term post-modern. The British historian Arnold J. Toynbee wrote in 1939, “Our own Post-Modern Age has been inaugurated by the general war of 1914-1918.” (OED) The war was so massive in scale that it shook the very foundations of culture. Of course, Toynbee must have felt the tremors of the next Great War and knew that the upheaval had only just begun.

In the wake of the second Great War, there was a growing anti-modernity movement which eventually became what we call postmodernity. Like western Christianity’s revival of the word orthodoxy and Karl Barth’s pursuit of a new manifestation of this orthodoxy, the feeling of postmodernity was a reaction to the overwhelming tragedy of this – the most violent time the earth had ever seen.

What Postmodernity Is Supposed to Be

In the arts and literature, postmodernism was an intentional movement. Postmodernity in culture was not as deliberate. It is the word that writers assign to a sense they have of transition.

For many postmodern thinkers, their era is not an attempt to be superior to modernity but rather to become something else, something new. But the danger of this kind of contrast is that we begin speaking of both as if they are concrete, definable movements with leaders and values.

Neither can clearly be defined; and since the Modern Age was a construct of people who felt their age was superior to all others, how can it be treated as concrete?

The biggest problem with postmodernity is that it is predicated on the existence of a Modern Age. It is a reaction to modernity, which we have seen to be an illusion. The basic assumption of modernity was that after the dark Medieval era, mankind was finally evolved to his next stage.

The Illusion of Eras

When one considers that the Medieval Period (roughly the period between the fall of Rome in 476 and the invention of the moveable type printing press in 1439) saw more technological advances in Europe than the entirety of the Ancient Period (c. 10,000 BC until 476 AD, or roughly 10,500 years), it is clear that marking this period as a “Dark Age” is extremely inappropriate. Next to no history books deal with this time period in any depth, so we are given the perception that the 1,000 years or so between Rome’s collapse and the Renaissance are essentially throw-away years.

The title “Dark Ages” was originally from the Italian writer Petrarch, who used it to refer to the rather deplorable Latin literature of the period. It had to do with literature, and nothing to do with culture. The reason the Latin literature was of a terrible quality was that Latin was in decline (or rather, transition). New cultures were replacing the Roman one that Petrarch saw in the writings of the classic authors.

Today, the Dark Ages is used by some historians to refer to the period of 476 to c. 1000 AD. But this usage is entirely unwarranted. Certainly Rome suffered a decline after the last western emperor was deposed; but Roman culture did not die. It had moved to the East 200 years prior.

And the Dark Ages were far from dark. The “barbarians” who overtook Rome were as advanced as the Romans. Their military formations and tactics were based on Roman systems. They used Latin as a lingua franca until the emergence of the Franks in the late 8th century AD.

And it is undeniable that the latter centuries were full of innovation and progress. Just some of the accomplishments of the Medieval Period include the following:

  • Engineering: the chimney, the triangular sail, horseshoes, hops, the horizontal loom, blast furnace, arched saddle, glasses, the arched bridge, the vaulted arch, mirrors, clocks, buttons, stern-mounted rudders, silk, the stirrup, and the wheelbarrow
  • Discoveries: Arabic numerals, magnetism and the compass, soap, liquor, and windmills

Such a period of discovery could hardly be called dark by any standard. This label was expanded by the philosophers of the Enlightenment to reflect the control that the Church had over European politics and the people of the period after the Fall of Rome. It was a manufactured distinction.

What Postmodernity Really Is

Postmodernity is really the shattering of the illusion of the “modern man.” The reality of human existence is that we really have not changed all that much in the 10,000 years or so of recorded history. We might make our weapons out of steel, aluminum and synthetic composites but they still serve the same function as the bronze swords of the Egyptians. We might type at 65-words per minute in an email to our senator; but our insults are still essentially the same as those scrawled on the ostrakon thrown at the politicians of ancient Athens.

So rather than an era that somehow succeeds or supersedes the modern age, what we are really living in is the same world that Jesus walked through. The technology has changed; but the people are still the same.

postmodernity clipPostmodernity is the acceptance of our humanity; all the change is not the wave of the future but the reconnection to our past. The modern will not supplant the ancient. Peace will not come from knowledge and diplomacy. We are what we are.

The Return to the Ancient

The “modern church” proclaimed with Calvin: sola scriptura. But now we know that this type of minimalism and reductionism accomplishes nothing but stripping the life out of our worship.

It exalts knowledge and ignores the experience, the touch/smell/taste/sight of worship.

But we are once again ancient.

The illusion of modernity is shattered, and we are only slowly realizing that we are unchanged. We are still the ancients.

Postmodernity is really a self-delusion because we refuse to accept the fall of modernity. We are struggling with what to do next because we refuse to accept that we are still human, still ancient.

Rather than modernity being the standard, it is the anomaly. And postmodernity is the end of the illusion. We are trying to hold onto our modernity while rejecting it at the same time.

As a result, we throw a veneer of the post- over our modernity and think that somehow it makes it better, makes it more complete. In reality, we just let every trend, fad and idea dictate a temporary standard for us.

it is not postmodernity but popmodernity. It is a modern that is no longer anchored in reason and superiority but rather on opinions, polls, and attempting to meet “felt needs.”

Return to the Story

This is where the supranarrative again comes into play. The illusory “modern church” believed that they were capable of interpreting the Scriptures better, that knowledge gave them power to understand the text and be “right.” The reality is that our technology and knowledge are still no substitute for the Holy Spirit.

When we learn to acknowledge that this Modern Age was an anomaly, an attempt at breaking from the supranarrative of human existence and trying to redeem ourselves rather than accepting the redemption God offers, I believe we will accept our ancient nature.

I believe we will be able to synthesize the advances of our supposed Modern Age with our ancient heritage – our present with our past. We will emerge as something more human than our cultures have been in some time.

Orthodoxy and Heteropraxis

October 20, 2008

It is very common to discuss orthodoxy or “proper teaching.” It seems like every form of Christianity claims to be orthodox – to have the right doctrine. They claim their form of faith is the proper form.

But there is more to being Christian than simply having “proper teaching.” Faith must also be lived out. We must not only have orthodoxie but also orthopraxis or “proper actions.” This is what James discussed quite frankly in his statements about faith and works (erga, literally “actions” or “animations”).

Yes, we need to desire correct teaching; but correct teaching is defined by the correct actions it creates in us, not by the assertion of the teacher.

It is too easy for us to affirm Christian orthodoxy but deny the orthopraxis. Instead, we have heteropraxis (other action) or even xenopraxis (strange action). Our works do not line up with the doxa we supposedly affirm.

If this is the case, then our orthodoxy is not orthodoxy. It is heterodoxy – “other teaching.” It is divorced from who we truly are, what we truly do and thus has no validity.

In order for us to be truly orthodox in our faith, our praxis must align with our doxa, and vice versa.

I am sick and tired of churches and Christians who claim to have all the right doctrine and behave like judgmental jerks with no real actions to validate their beliefs.

Show me your faith without works, and I will show you MY FAITH by MY WORKS.

Just thought I’d share some of my thinking from recent reading.

In our Western theological landscape, we think of redemption as the appeasement of God’s anger toward sinful mankind. In brief, it goes something like this: God is angry with sin, so we are justly condemned; Jesus’ sacrifice pays the price of the anger; man is saved from wrath.

But in the Eastern church, there is a very different perspective. The Eastern church teaches that the redemption of man is an act of restoration and reconciliation, not of ransom from punishment. In other words, while the judgment for sin is atoned for on the cross, it is the manifestation of love, not anger.

It is a subtle nuance; and it might be lost on some; but to me, it is beautiful. God cannot abide sin; but it is because it is the corruption of his creation. It is not his intent at all for mankind, so in his love for his creation, Jesus restores us to God.

All at once, one of the great theological arguments of the Western Church disappears. It does not matter who the ransom is paid to (God or Satan) because there is no ransom. We are not held captive, but rather simply distant and sick. Our relationship with God is severed by sin and restored by Jesus.

For the most part, the Orthodox do not speak of redemption in legal terms (grace, punishment) but rather in medical terms (sickness, healing). Repentance is not remorse and acceptance of punishment but an act of our freedom to choose Christ and therein receive reconciliation.

To be honest, I am just reading this for the first time, but I love it. Rather than emphasizing condemnation, the Eastern church sees restoration. Through Jesus, we do not lose our humanity in the pursuit of holiness but rather true holiness before God is the pursuit of becoming fully human, as we created to be.